A qualitative appraisal of the meaning and challenges of the principal's school governance role in the Gert Sibande Region
Nhlapo, Job Mphikeleli
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The purpose of this study was to appraise the meaning and challenges of the principal’s school governance role in the Gert Sibande Region of the Mpumalanga Province. This was premised on the inherent challenges of the principal’s role as prescribed in the South African Schools Act, which locates the principal in the school governing body (SGB) as a member who promotes the best interests of the school; as well as an ex officio member who represents and promotes the interests of the employer – the Department of Education. It was found, through the literature review, that the challenges of the principal’s school governance role were largely symptoms of different emphases on the various functions of the SGB as listed in the South African Schools Act. As such, the concept of school governance was contextualised into an understanding of the essence of the school governance mandate as concerned with three main roles of the SGB, namely, providing the school with a strategic direction, the SGB being critical friend to the school and holding the school to account. Through qualitative interviews of purposely selected school principals, educator-governors and parent-governors, it was found that the principal’s role was influenced by, among others, challenges pertaining to the principals’ ex officio role, parent governors’ low education level, parent governors perceptions about being in the SGB, the perceptions about the principals’ role in the SGB by other members and miscellaneous challenges pertaining to perceptions and structural factors about the school governance role. This was found to be a result of the listed nature of the Schools Act’s governance roles and responsibilities and pointed to the need for giving context to them through an approach that focuses on the meaning and implications of the school governance mandate. For that reason, this study proposes a Three-step Approach to school governance. The Three step-Approach to school governance takes the school governance mandate as a point of departure and models the school governance process from the intention to establish SGBs through elections of a new and incoming SGB while the outgoing SGB is in the final stages of its term of office; to training of SGB members over stages that focus on the relevant content and components of school governors; and culminates into the start of the process of functioning of the incoming SGB. The emphasis of this approach is on fostering a clear understanding of the school governance mandate; how it contextualises the listed functions in the Schools Act; and the need for the SGB to start functioning with members already trained and in full understanding of their roles as they relate to the school governance mandate of promoting the best interests of the schools through the provision of quality education for all learners at the school.
- Education 
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